The German ship Geier was confiscated in San Francisco by the United
States at the start of WWI. The U.S. Navy renovated and renamed the
ship U.S.S. Schurz, and made it a cruiser in its arsenal. In December
1917 the ship was prepared to go to war against her previous owners.
Dense fog filled the air on the morning of June 18, 1918 as the Schurz
made its way 10 miles off Cape Lookout. The Navy cruiser was loaded with
a 215 man crew. Small arms, ammunition and machinery used for war filled
her hull. During periods of high German submarine activity, many ships
ran without their lights on to avoid detection. The American tanker
Florida was doing just that when the watch officer from the Schurz spotted
her a couple hundred yards away. The watch officer sounded the alarm.
It was too late, the Florida turned on her lights about the same time as
she rammed into the side of the Schurz, ripping a huge gash in her mostly
wooden side. The Schurz immediately began to fill with water. The Florida
on the other hand looked almost as if nothing had happened.
One man was killed in the collision when he rushed to the side of the
Schurz to see what had happened. A S.O.S. was sent out and the American
passenger ship Saramacca responded just in time to see the Navy ship go
down. The surviving 214 crewmen were picked up and taken to safety,
while the Florida continued on her northbound course.
Currently the U.S.S. Schurz rests in 110 feet of water 31 miles southeast
of Beaufort inlet. Water temperature on the wreck usually ranges from the
upper 70's to the low 80's in the summer. Many people like to wear only
shorts on this dive, it is recommended divers wear a diveskin or coveralls
to protect against stinging creatures. Old flightsuits, with their many
pockets to put shells and goodies in are an excellent option. Visibility
ranges from 70 feet to well over 100 feet in summer. Upon descending, some
divers think the wreck is "moving". What's really happening is bait fish
are swarming all over the wreck playing tricks on the eyes of the divers.
The wreck is scattered over a large area on the seafloor, and a few brass
artifacts can still be found. There is also an area where the cargo of
live rifle and pistol ammunition is exposed. Recovery of these items
is permitted, although it is not recommended. Modern day residents of
the Schurz include eels, groupers, sea turtles, sea bass, amberjacks and
A trip out on North Carolina's wrecks must include this historic WWI